Clark College President Robert K. Knight spoke to hundreds of community leaders, college faculty and students the morning of Jan. 17; giving his 13th State of the College Address.
Among key issues and accomplishments discussed in Knight’s speech were social equity on campus, implementation of the Guided Pathways program and a successful accreditation through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
“For the second year in a row, transformation was the theme at Clark College,” Knight said. “With changes in everything from our enrollment process, to our executive team. But the important thing to remember is that all this change, all this upheaval, is all to help us fulfill our vision.”
In addition to passing the the accreditation evaluation, the college also received six commendations:
- Faculty and staff readiness to support student learning and success
- Creation of student spaces that increase academic and social engagement
- Embracing social equity and dedication to eliminating disparities
- Providing effective methods of support for students with disabilities
- Dedication to those who served and making veterans resources accessible
- Strong engagement with industry partners
Knight recognized many city, state and federal officials, as well as honored guest, Wilbert Kalmbach, who is a WWII veteran that officially graduated from Clark in 2009 after being invited back to commencement.
When he came to recognizing the large delegation from the city of Ridgefield, Knight began to laugh.
“They show up at every event we do at Clark now! I think they want something,” Knight joked, referencing Clark’s Boschma Farm’s campus in Ridgefield, expected to begin construction as soon as state funding comes through.
Perhaps most prominent and well known, is Clark’s implementation of the Guided Pathways program. The nationally recognized program endeavors to help students develop plans for a career as well as their degree(s).
“Other colleges that have implemented Guided Pathways, have seen their completion rates increase,” Knight said. “ And just as important, the completion rate is the same for students of all backgrounds.”
Guided Pathways will eliminate disparities in the college environment, by equipping everyone equally with what they need to succeed, Knight said.
Knight also explained goals the college has completed in social equity, including a diversity center, single-stall gender-neutral bathrooms and efforts to hire more persons of color.
The president also addressed some of the upgrades the college intends to make as a result of the accreditation evaluation, which occurs every 7 to 10 years.
Valerie Moreno, from Clark’s IT Services and now the recently hired chief information officer, has created an IT plan for the college to update its systems and hardware, Knight said.
Several accomplishments the president highlighted were having the number one Pharmacy Tech program in the nation, adding new bachelor of applied science degrees, newly awarded grants, including one to aid students with children, and the opening of the full-service restaurant from the McClaskey Culinary Institute.
Knight also shared his hope to acquire funding for salary raises for college employees. He cited that the average staff and faculty member at Clark, was being paid 12 percent less than their counterparts in peer states.
“Our number one ask at the state level, on the operational side, is for salaries,” Knight said. “The employees in this room deserve an increase.”
He likened the situation to the McCleary decision and the public school teacher strikes that occurred in the fall of last year. He also explained that if funding for salary increases does come through, there is a high probability operation funding will be lower.
Knight will retire at the end of the 2018-2019 contract year
Knight also recently announced that he plans to retire at the end of the 2018-2019 contract year on Aug. 31.
“On behalf of the entire Board of Trustees, I want to thank President Knight for his exemplary service during his 13 years leading Clark College,” said Royce Pollard, chair of the Clark College Board of Trustees. “For more than a decade, he has provided stability and vision that has aKnight joined Clark in 2004 as Vice President of Administrative Services. In 2006, he was named acting president, and a year later was named president. During his tenure, he has overseen many changes at the college, including the opening of its Columbia Tech Center location in 2009, a new STEM Building in 2016, and the development of the college’s first three Bachelor of Applied Science degree programs.
Knight publicly announced his retirement on Jan. 18, the day after delivering his annual State of the College address, in which he shared the news of the college’s recent successful accreditation process.
President Knight will continue to serve as president until his retirement date.
“While this is a decision that my wife and I have been weighing for some time, I wanted to see the college through its accreditation process before informing trustees and Executive Cabinet,” Knight wrote in an email to college employees this morning. “Now that our review is complete and the college has received commendations in six areas, I feel comfortable that I am leaving this institution on firm footing.”
Pollard said that the Board of Trustees will begin the work of selecting a replacement for President Knight at a special board meeting to be announced soon.